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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, June 17, 2018 1:00 am

Sessions' visit wasn't random

BRIAN FRANCISCO and NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

At least a few people – including us – were wondering why U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions scheduled a speech about immigration policy on Thursday in downtown Fort Wayne of all places.

It seemed like a random city to visit, considering that most immigration battles are being fought in states on the U.S.-Mexico border and in so-called sanctuary cities that have resisted cooperating with the Trump administration in deporting undocumented immigrants.

On Friday, Sessions went to Scranton, Pennsylvania, for an immigration speech – another seemingly random locale.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice told Political Notebook that Sessions likes to visit federal attorneys' offices that he oversees from Washington, D.C. She said in an email that Sessions has gone to more than 40 federal attorneys' offices around the country since becoming attorney general in 2017.

The spokeswoman pointed out that Fort Wayne is the largest city in the justice system's Northern District of Indiana, which also has offices in South Bend, Hammond and Lafayette.

After Sessions spoke to an invited audience of attorneys, law enforcement officials and Rotary Club members at Parkview Field, he went to the nearby E. Ross Adair Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse to meet with local, state and federal law enforcement personnel, including the staff of the U.S. district attorney.

Legislative business

The northeast Indiana Republican delegation at the General Assembly is a business-friendly bunch.

Fifteen of the 16 GOP lawmakers from the area have received vote scores of 89 percent or higher for the 2018 legislative session from the Indiana Chamber, including two – Reps. David Heine of New Haven and Matthew Lehman of Berne – who scored 100 percent.

The outlier was Rep. Curt Nisly of Goshen, who scored 75 percent.

The Indiana Chamber said last week that scores of 70 percent or greater for the most recent four-year voting period would make lawmakers eligible for endorsement consideration by its political action committee, Indiana Business for Responsive Government. All 16 of the GOP state lawmakers from northeast Indiana make that cut.

The area's lone Democrat, Rep. Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne, received a 67 percent score for 2018 and a four-year aggregate score of 56 percent.

Other scores for the 2018 session were 97 percent for Reps. Martin Carbaugh of Fort Wayne, Dan Leonard of Huntington and Dennis Zent of Angola; 96 percent for Rep. Chris Judy of Fort Wayne and Sen. Andy Zay of Huntington; 94 percent for Sen. Travis Holdman of Markle; 93 percent for Reps. Bob Morris of Fort Wayne, Ben Smaltz of Auburn and David Wolkins of Warsaw and Sens. Liz Brown of Fort Wayne and Susan Glick of LaGrange; 90 percent for Rep. David Long of Fort Wayne, who was president pro tem of the Senate; and 89 percent for Rep. Dennis Kruse of Auburn.

The Indiana Chamber graded lawmakers according to their roll-call votes on 17 bills in the House and 11 bills in the Senate, including the alignment of education and workforce programs, requiring computer science courses in schools, high-speed internet expansion, autonomous vehicle regulation and allowing Sunday sales of alcohol. 

Only one legislator voted along with Indiana Chamber positions less than half the time: Democratic Rep. Mark Stoops of Bloomington, who scored 47 percent.

Lugar Series seeks applicants

The Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series is accepting applications from Republican women for its 2018-19 class.

The not-for-profit organization was founded in 1990 as a leadership development program that aims to increase the number of GOP women in local, state and national elective and appointive offices. The program has trained 509 Hoosier women in 28 classes.

The series was inspired by Richard Lugar, a Republican U.S. senator from Indiana from 1977 through 2012.

Lugar Series applicants should have demonstrated leadership skills at work or in community service and will be evaluated on written and oral presentations. Applications are due Aug. 1 and are available by going to www.lugarseries.com/apply or by calling 317-536-6900.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.